Kõpu Lighthouse in 2006
|Year first constructed||1531|
|Year first lit||1531|
|Tower shape||Square prism with counterforts|
|Markings / pattern||White square stone tower with retaining walls. Balcony, red lantern|
|Height||Tower – 36 m (118 ft)|
|Focal height||102.6 m (337 ft)|
|Range||26 nmi (48 km; 30 mi)|
|Characteristic||Fl(2) W 10s|
Kõpu Lighthouse (Estonian: Kõpu tuletorn) is one of the best known symbols and tourist sights on the Estonian island of Hiiumaa. It is one of the oldest lighthouses in the world,[A] having been in continuous use since its completion in 1531.
The lighthouse marks the Hiiu sandbank (Estonian: Hiiu madal, Swedish: Neckmansgrund) and warns ships away from the shoreline. Light from Kõpu Lighthouse can be used for navigation as far as 26 nautical miles (48 km; 30 mi) away, although in 1997 a radar lighthouse largely took over its role as navigation aid.
Design and location
The lighthouse is built at the top of the highest hillock of Hiiumaa island, Tornimägi (English: Tower Hill, 68 metres (223 ft))[B]. The height of the building itself is 36 metres (118 ft), and the light is 102.6 metres (337 ft) above sea level, making it the highest coastal light on the Baltic Sea.
Kõpu Lighthouse has the shape of a square prism, with massive counterforts in the directions of principal divisions of the compass. The tower is laid solely of stone up to the height of 24 metres (79 ft). The outside layer of the walls is supported by lime mortar, with the body itself built without mortar.
The body of the tower contains roughly 5,000 cubic metres (6,500 cu yd) of stone, with its total weight reaching 12,000 tonnes (26,000,000 lb). Local limestone and glacial erratic stones were used as building material.
Originally, the base of the tower was solid stone without any rooms; the top of the lighthouse was reached using external wooden stairs, which were later replaced with iron ones. During reconstruction in the 1800s, a stairway was cut into the tower and has remained in use since.
Construction and history
Construction of the original tower
The most important East–West shipping lane in the Baltic Sea passed the Hiiu sandbank. Already before the year 1490 the Hanseatic merchants were seeking permission to mark this peninsula with an outstanding landmark. Around 1490 they asked the bishop of Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek to let them build a landmark on the Kõpu peninsula which was under the bishop’s control. This action had no real results.
At a meeting of the Hanseatic League in Lübeck in 1499, they applied once more to the bishop for permission to build a beacon. On 20 April 1500 Bishop Johannes III Orgas (John Orgies) agreed to allow a massive stone pillar without any openings. To cover the building costs, Tallinn city council had to establish a special lighthouse tax until the sum was complete.
Building of the beacon was supposed to start in the summer of 1500,[C] but the building was stopped when Wolter von Plettenberg, master of the Livonian Order, started a war which lasted until 1503. In the spring of 1504, purchase and delivery of the building materials began, but in the autumn of the same year the plague broke out, stopping the work once more. Building work was discontinued and alderman Lambert Ottingk, the magistrate in charge of the building, died in Tallinn on 28 December 1505.
The account ledgers of Tallinn city council contain entries about the Kõpu lighthouse from 1507 to 1533, showing money was spent on the beacon of Hiiumaa from 13 May 1514 until 12 October 1532. The amounts show the majority of the work took place from 1514 to 1519; later there are only a couple of bigger expenditures on the beacon. A fire was first lit in the autumn of 1531; it was simply a bonfire on top of the tower.
The 20 m (66 ft) high and 8 m (26 ft) wide tower was visible on a clear day up to 20 kilometres (12 mi) offshore.
Reconstruction and rebuilding
In August 1649 a wooden staircase was built to the outside wall of the tower and an open iron fire grate affixed to the top. Originally it was planned to burn coal in the lighthouse, but due to high transport costs of coal, wood was used instead.
The fire consumed up to 1000 cords of firewood every year during the 180-day navigation period, a quantity so great that it led to deforestation of most of the Kõpu peninsula. A team of six was on guard every night, but storms extinguished the fire often. A rule passed in 1652 decreed that the fire must be strong and a fathom (~2 yards (1.8 m)) high.
Count Axel Julius De la Gardie bought the island of Hiiumaa from the King of Sweden for 38,000 thalers and took over management of the Kõpu lighthouse in 1659. He had its height extended to 35.6 m (117 ft) and the wooden stairs replaced with an iron staircase. The light, now visible from as far as 24 kilometres (15 mi) away, was lit one hour after the sun set and extinguished one hour before sunrise.
The Russian Empire took over the administration of the lighthouse in 1805. Major reconstruction of the tower began in 1810. A stone staircase was cut to the southern counterfort plus a room large enough for a team of six men. Into the upper part they made two subsidiary rooms, one on top of the other, and another, the topmost room, 35 metres (115 ft) from the ground, was for the lanterns. The lantern room housed twenty three oil lamps, using silver-plated brass reflectors. The lamps burned hemp oil, requiring 3.28 tonnes (7,200 lb) yearly.
In 1845, a crack in the upper part of the lighthouse called for extensive reconstruction, which saw part of the tower pulled down and rebuilt. The tower now gained its final height: 36 metres (118 ft). A wooden structure with lamp-chimneys was built for the lantern and its optical devices.
The lighthouse came under navy control, and the first maintenance rules were laid down. The fire was to be lit and extinguished in strict accordance to sunrise and sunset. In cloudy weather lighthouse keepers were to consult a calendar for the necessary data. At that time, the fire was kept burning nightly from 1 July to 1 May – 10 months of the year.
As part of his naval reforms, Grand Duke Constantine Nikolaevich of Russia demanded modernization of the Kõpu lighthouse, in 1859. In May 1860, a novel gyratory device (manufactured by Le Paute in Paris) was installed. It rotated at a speed of one revolution per four minutes, using a clockwork pulley-weight system. The device had one Carsel lamp with four concentric light sources and a Fresnel lens. The lamp consumed 0.5 kilograms (1.1 lb) of rapeseed oil hourly, and the fuel pump was powered by the same clockwork mechanism. It was said to be visible up to 27 nautical miles (50 km; 31 mi) away. A team of seven serviced the lighthouse, with one required to be near the light at all times.
The counterfort with the staircase was roofed with wooden boards and tin sheets in 1869. A telegraph installation and rescue stations were established near the lighthouse in the same year; the first-established worked until 1898 when it was replaced by a telephone.
A new light system was bought at the 1900 Paris World Fair, for three million gold rubles. The new apparatus (including the light chamber) was made by Sautter, Marlé & Co. It used a kerosene lamp with a gas mantle. A heavy cast iron system floated and rotated in a bath of mercury, which acted as a bearing. The bath contained roughly 500 kilograms (1,100 lb) of mercury. The poisonous mercury from the lighthouse was used for decades by children in the surrounding villages for playing.
The light system was set in rotation by a suspended 400 kilograms (880 lb) load; it needed to be rewound every two hours. It was installed during repairs of 1901.
In 1939, the lighthouse underwent major repairs for its anniversary. As part of those renovations, the tower was painted with high quality oil paint, which became the main contributor to the deterioration of the tower in subsequent decades – thick waterproof layers of paint did not allow the limestone to dry. The mortar began to deteriorate rapidly.
After World War II, various optical systems were tested. Kohler generators were installed in 1949 along with the stationary electric light system. A new rotating light system (EMV-3) was installed in 1963, making the lighthouse fully automated. It was in use until 1982, when an experimental EMV-930M system (made in Ukraine) was installed. The rotation mechanism of the optical system is a novel solution – there are no electric motors; it uses a revolving magnetic field instead. The optics brought a six to eight hundredfold increase to the efficiency of the light radiated by a 1 kW quartz lamp. The same light system is still in use.
Due to the progressing deterioration, the lighthouse underwent frequent repairs. Major repairs were in 1957, 1970, 1979–1981 and a major overhaul in 1982. The walls crumbled partially during the 1980s. To stop the deterioration, a 15 centimetres (5.9 in) thick reinforced concrete dress was built to support the foundation and walls (1989–1990). Small air channels were left in the concrete. The top of the lighthouse was renovated in 2001.
Kõpu Lighthouse only lost its important role as a primary navigation aid in 1997, when a radar lighthouse took over its duties. Recreational craft and small fishing vessels continue to rely on Kõpu for navigating, as a backup to electronic navigation systems. The Estonian Maritime Administration still classifies it as an active aid to navigation. Its future is ensured by its status as a protected cultural memorial.
Due to its enduring popularity and memorable shape, it is often used as a symbol of Hiiumaa. A major tourist attraction, the tower has been open for tourists since 1999. Together with the nearby Ristna lighthouse, the Kõpu lighthouse was commemorated on a postage stamp in 2000.
- ^ Most sources agree it is the third oldest operating lighthouse in the world, without mentioning what the other two are. They might be the Tower of Hercules and the Lighthouse of Genoa.
- ^ Some sources give the height of the hill as 67 m (220 ft) and some as 68 m (223 ft)
- ^ Different sources give different years for the start of the construction, for example, Baltic Lights has 1527–1531. All sources agree that the lighthouse was finished in 1531.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kõpu lighthouse.|
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- "Kõpu tuletorn". Kultuurimälestiste riiklik register (in Estonian). Muinsuskaitseamet (National Heritage Board). Retrieved 2009-06-30.
- "Ristna and Kõpu Lighthouses". Eesti Post. 2000-02-25. Retrieved 2009-06-30.
- Spilling, Michael (1999). Estonia. Cultures of the World. Marshall Cavendish. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-7614-0951-9.
- Baltic Sea Heritage Co-operation: Coastal Culture and Maritime Heritage (working group), et al. "Baltic Lights:A guarantee of safe passage". National Museum of Science and Technology, Denmark (Host). Polish Maritime Museum, Gdańsk (Orig. exhibitor, April, 2003). Retrieved 2009-10-22.
- Estonian lighthouses list Maritime Administration (in Estonian)
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